Finance chief meets banks
Hong Kong’s financial services chief yesterday weighed in on the dispute over the possible mis-selling of investment products backed by failed US bank Lehman Brothers. Financial Services Secretary Chan Ka-cheung (陳家強) met representatives of 21 banks that disgruntled investors accused of mis-selling “mini-bonds” that could now be worthless. As of yesterday noon, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority said it had received more than 3,500 complaints about Lehman bonds. The investors bought HK$12.7 billion (US$1.63 billion) of the complex financial products.
Linde buys stake in Elgas
The German group Linde, the world leader in industrial gases, said yesterday it had taken full control of the Australian company Elgas for 126 million euros (US$175 million). Linde bought the outstanding stake in Elgas from AGL Energy, which co-owned the Australian specialist in liquified gases with Linde. Elgas was created in 1984 and posted sales of 225 million euros last year, Linde said.
Sony buys out partner
Japan’s Sony Corp said it had completed the acquisition of German media giant Bertelsmann’s 50 percent stake in their Sony BMG joint venture, the world’s second-largest recorded music company. The venture, which is now a wholly owned subsidiary of the Japanese electronics and entertainment conglomerate, will be renamed Sony Music Entertainment Inc, Sony said in a statement late on Wednesday. The two firms joined forces in 2004 to save costs in the face of declining CD sales and the growing popularity of Internet downloads, but Bertelsmann announced in August that it was selling its stake to its Japanese partner.
Bank of Japan looks abroad
State-owned Development Bank of Japan plans to boost investment in overseas financial firms as it seeks to develop an investment banking group ahead of full privatization. The Tokyo-based lender, which became a joint-stock company on Wednesday, plans to double lending and investment abroad to ¥500 billion (US$4.7 billion) as foreign firms seek capital amid the global credit crisis, bank president Minoru Murofushi said at a press briefing in Tokyo yesterday. “We have a very big opportunity,” Murofushi said.
Apple drops iPhone NDA
Apple said on Wednesday it was dropping a controversial non-disclosure agreement (NDA) that software developers who wanted to create applications for the iPhone mobile telephone had been forced to sign. The NDA prevented software developers seeking to take part in the iPhone Developer Program from discussing their work, even with colleagues. Outside developers seeking to create applications for the iPhone are still required to go through Apple’s “App Store,” which controls which applications are approved or not.
BA mulls Alitalia tie-up
British Airways (BA) is interested in forming a partnership with a revived Alitalia but does not want a stake in the Italian flagship, the Corriere della Sera reported yesterday. “[Investor group] Italian Air Company’s plan is satisfactory to us, it marks the start of a new era for Alitalia and, in this context, we are prepared to aim for a strategic commercial alliance,” said Yannick Hoyles, BA’s commercial representative for Western Europe.